About a half hour from Willcox, Arizona is what may be one of the country’s most beautiful and largely unknown treasures, Chiricahua National Monument.
Chiricahua is known as the “Wonderland of Rocks”. You might be surprised at just how remarkable rocks can be. After you enter the park, you will drive first through a valley, with rocky spires towering hundreds of feet overhead. It’s tough to get a good view from the road, because of the dense tree growth.
As you continue deeper into Chiricahua, the road begins to climb. The further you go, the better the views.
Sugarloaf Mountain Trail
With less than two hours left of daylight, I headed for one of the highest points in the park, via the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail. The path is just under a mile, one way, although it climbs at a near-10% grade, gaining 470 feet.
Just after leaving the trailhead, you’ll pass through the mountainside, in this small tunnel that’s been chiseled out of the rock.
At one point along the trail, signs warn you to watch out for falling rock. The trail is still easily passable.
After scrambling up a long, straight section of the trail, you reach the destination: this old fire lookout building, perched atop the 7310 ft. mountain. A sign welcomes you to “Come In!”, however the building was locked tight during my visit.
After you’ve seen the fire lookout, and talked to the rangers inside (assuming anyone’s home), take a few minutes to wander around at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. There’s no definite trail, but you can make your way to better photo points with some effort.
As you can see by the shadows, dusk was quickly approaching, and with nearly a mile of trail between me and my car, I didn’t spend much time at the top.
You have to travel a good distance down the trail before you can see the parking lot, and even then, it’s still a long way off.
Watch for rocks, in Chiricahua? I guess that makes sense.
Here’s something I didn’t notice on the way up the trail. Not far from the trailhead, you’ll find a small cave that’s eroded from the sandstone wall. It’s big enough for an adult to fit inside, and I imagine every kid who hikes up this trail gives it a try. Yes, I gave it a try too, but strictly for photographic purposes, I swear!
Once you’re back at your car, drive the short distance to the Massai Point overlook.
Note: This trip was first published in 2005. I spent much more time in Chiricahua National Monument on a more recent trip. You can check it out here.